Significant decline in literacy skills of students in African countries

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African governments are meeting in Mauritius to discuss solutions as a new report shows that, while all children are born to learn, those in Africa are five times less likely to learn the basics than children elsewhere.

The ability of the continent’s education systems to ensure even rudimentary literacy skills for their students has declined in 4 out of 10 African countries over the past three decades.

The findings are published in the first of a three-part series of Spotlight reports on basic learning in Africa titled Born to learn, published by the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the African Union.

The continental report draws on five accompanying country reports developed in partnership with Ministries of Education covering the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal and a series of case studies from various African regions.

“Africa has a complex past that has left in part linguistic fragmentation, conflict, poverty and malnutrition that have weighed heavily on the ability of education systems to deliver universal primary completion and basic learning. Our partnership shines a spotlight on this issue with Ministries of Education to help find solutions that work. The social and economic consequences of low learning outcomes are devastating for Africa. The findings of this report give us the chance to find a new path, learning from each other,” said Albert Nsengiyumva, Executive Secretary of ADEA.

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The report finds that, in addition to socio-economic challenges, limited availability of good quality textbooks, lack of adequate teacher support, insufficient teacher training and provision of teaching guides, limited progress in introducing home languages ​​in education and insufficient school feeding programs are key factors that have led to poor learning outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa.

Yet recent interventions show that progress is possible if efforts focus on evidence-based classroom practices. These positive practices highlighted in the report and other experiences are to feed into an AU-hosted peer-to-peer learning mechanism on foundational learning that was launched alongside this report, the Learning Analysis Network. Education for Results (LEARN), building on the Continental Education Network Africa Cluster Strategy.

Mohammed Belhocine, African Union Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has thwarted our efforts to ensure that all children have foundational reading skills. and in mathematics. This is why it is justified to emphasize basic education in the political dialogue platform of our continental strategy. The work of the new LEARN network on basic education in the AU launched this week will draw on country experiences youwho participated in the Spotlight series of reports”.

As Manos Antoninis, Director of the GEM Report, noted, “Every child is born to learn, but they won’t if they’re hungry, if they don’t have a manual for learning, if they don’t understand not the language in which they are taught and if their teachers are not supported appropriately. Each country must also learn, ideally from its peers. We hope this Spotlight Report will guide ministries in developing a clear plan to improve learning, set a vision for change, work closely with teachers and school leaders, and use external resources more effectively. “.

The report makes the following recommendations:

  1. Give all children a textbook: Ensure that all children have research-based and locally developed learning materials. Each textbook is shared by an average of 3 students and yet owning their textbook can increase children’s literacy scores by up to 20%. from Senegal Conference for allthe project ensured that the manuals were of high quality. Benin is famous for its system-wide curriculum and textbook reform that provided more explicit and direct instruction to teachers, as well as efforts to reduce the cost of textbooks to less than US$1.
  2. Teach all children in their mother tongue:Ggive all children the opportunity to learn to read in the language they understand. Only one in five pupils receive instruction in their mother tongue. The recent expansion of bilingual education in Mozambique covers around a quarter of primary schools, with children learning the new approach achieving 15% better results than those studying the monolingual curriculum.
  3. Provide all children with a school meal: Give all children the minimum conditions to learn: zero hungry pupils in school.Today, only one in three primary school students in Africa receives a school meal. Rwanda pledged to provide school meals to all children from pre-primary to lower secondary and offered to cover 40% of the costs.
  4. Develop a clear plan to improve learning: Set learning standards, set targets and track results to inform the national vision. There is no information on the learning levels of two thirds of the children in the region. This represents 140 million students. The Ghana Accountability for Learning Outcomes project is working on a framework for learning accountability, which includes the development of standardized national assessment tests at levels 2 and 4.
  5. Develop teacher capacity: Ensure that all teachers use class time effectively through training and instructional guides. A recent study of 13 countries, including 8 in sub-Saharan Africa, found that projects with instructional guides significantly increased reading fluency.
  6. Preparing educational leaders: Restructure the support mechanisms offered to teachers and schools. The Readin Kenya, which combined school support and monitoring with effective leadership, saw improvements equivalent to an extra year of schooling for children.
  7. Learn from your peers:Reinvigorate mechanisms for countries to share experiences in basic literacy and numeracy.
  8. Focus aid on institution building: Moving from projects to providing public goods that support foundational learning

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The report was launched with a #BorntoLearn campaign with the support of the First Lady of Malawi, HE Monica Chakwera and the First Lady and Minister of Education of Uganda HE Janet Kainembabazi Museveni, alongside six other ministers of education: Ghana, Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zanzibar.